Should dads be allowed in the birthing room? This question has arisen lately in the blogosphere and, frankly, I'm just as mystified as other "dadvocates" like Brian Reid from Rebel Dad.com. Isn't it just a given at this point that dads should be allowed to attend the birth of their children?
Watching a rerun of Mad Men the other day -- the episode where Don Draper is stuck in a hospital waiting room while his wife gives birth -- reminded me once again of where the state of the delivery room was only a few short decades ago. My own father was not permitted at my birth and, after I was born, he had to adhere to "visiting hours" just like everyone else. The message about my dad being a "visitor" is something that most fathers of his generation had to contend with and, in some cases of divorce, still do.
From my view, one way to pinpoint exactly where we are in the "evolution" of fatherhood is to notice how most of today's dads are now present at the birth of their children. Most also accompany their wives to birthing classes and learn how to coach their wives on breathing; very often, they will be given the opportunity to snip the umbilical cord. The typical dad of today proudly wears his involvement in the birth as a badge of fatherhood... as well he should.
And then I read the comments to a recent posting on Jezebel.com about this subject, where a number of people expressed that a father's presence in the birthing room is "distracting" to the process. Of course, it should be up to the couple to decide what is best in their situation, but to read about how some people would like dads to once again not be permitted in the birthing room is, in my mind, reflective of how far we still need to go to get everyone on board about the importance of fathers becoming more involved with their families.
I'm not an alarmist by nature, nor do I do I really believe we are going to regress to the point where my father and countless other dads were in generations past. We've come too far for that to happen. However, I bring this issue up to point out how fragile the "evolution" of dad truly is, and that as dads and parents we must really work hard to keep moving forward.
One way to progress would be to make the pre-baby process more inclusive of dads-to-be. It might help many men to be educated at this stage about fatherhood in general and, more importantly, that their value should not be based solely on the size of their wallets- as is still, more often than not, the case. Among so many things, dads should learn about the importance of parental leave and see how it's most beneficial to their children, as well as themselves, to be involved as early on as possible. The next real step in our "evolution" is what happens immediately following the birth, so the more dads can understand about this the better. Lastly, dads should become aware that work/family balance is as much an issue for them as it is for their wives, and that discussing it early and often can avoid problems down the road.
I can't wait to see how fatherhood progresses in the years to come. Educating dads on their role and keeping them engaged in the delivery room and beyond - can make sure that fatherhood continues to grow to its fullest potential.
Dana H. Glazer is the award-winning director of the feature-length documentary film, The Evolution of Dad. To learn more about the film, please visit www.evolutionofdad.com.